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Self Harm:

How a negative thought pattern turned me against myself

· self love,Coaching

I have written about my self harm experiences before on my personal blog Learning to Make It in a post named 'My Painful Addiction'. As this months focus is on our beliefs about ourselves, it seems on right to talk about the beliefs and thoughts that caused me to harm myself - and how I reprogrammed those thoughts to being loving and kind.

The voice in my head

To me the daemon in my head, the voice screaming I wasn't enough was very real.

And perhaps most terrifyingly, she had my voice.

The convincing and almost comforting tone of my own internal monologue telling me that if I was just thin, then I would be attractive. If I was more attractive, people would love me, then, then I would be worthy.

Belief: If I just lost one more pound, then I would be sexy, worthy, loveable.

This thought is one that can be traced back to 5 year old me in the playground surrounded by little children chanting "She's fat, she's round, she bounces on the ground, her name is Jenny Skuse." There is something deeply sad about your first memory being one of humiliation and body shaming.

It was something that followed me through high school and even university. This understanding - it was after all being evidenced daily - that my weight, the shape of my body directly indicated my worth, or in this case, my worthlessness. 

From my middle school crush ripping up a valentines card I had made him in front of my face and throwing it at me in front of everyone saying "Like I'd ever date you." to a friend I adored in high school, who even had a crush on me, stating he liked me but could never date me 'because she's fat'. And then at 20 getting a letter pushed through my door "To the girl with brown hair (all the others were blonde) a size 10 and a size 16 are not the same thing, don't you own a mirror. How do your friends let you leave the house like that?" finally, the 4 message long answer phone message left one night by an anonymous stranger after I had taken a guy home - someone who did in fact think I was sexy and beautiful - telling me "I don't know how he looks at you naked. I would have vomited. You're disgusting. I feel so sorry for him, he must be drunk."

With 15 years of that shit - not so surprising I developed a negative thought pattern, and eventually self harm habits.

I would squeeze my fat, pleading with it to go away.

Thought: It's like a massage right? and massages are a form of self care. You're just looking after yourself.

It made an odd sort of sense at the time. After all I'd see articles about the fat reducing benefits of massage. But that wasn't what I was doing, I was punishing myself. Torturing the body that I felt had betrayed me. The monster I had to live with.

Unable to see the truth. It was my thoughts that created the monster within.

The internal dialogue was toxic and deafening. My voice possessed, my thoughts under siege... and a part of me, the part I was most ashamed of, loved it.

One of the odd things about self harm is that you can actually convince yourself it feels good. The controlled pain in an uncontrollable situation. Justifiable and almost safe. It's bollucks of course, just another way your brain tries to keep you alive and your thoughts try to control you. When that cortisol gets going and then the adrenaline. You're addicted to a set of chemicals evolved to keep you safe, keep you alive. A by product of our saber tooth tiger days, with the enemy no longer bearing teeth but a daily grind of 'something just isn't right here.'

It took me years to love the tarnished parts of me.

I had realised early on my behaviour wasn't healthy, I continued to justify it of course, but I knew. The hardest part was wanting to change. Believing there was another way and being WILLING to learn to love myself.

It was only when I finally was able to look myself in the mirror, see the bruises and hear that small, compassionate and resolute voice saying "Enough now, we've suffered enough." that I started my journey to recovery.

Moving into a healing place

I had to forgive myself and be WILLING to heal. It took work, I can tell you. But it got easier. At the beginning it was about learning to forgive the thought and not to see myself as a failure if I did relapse.

Each time the "Of course you fucked up again, tap tap tap, idiot." I would acknowledge the thought and then forgive it. "I hear you, but I don't believe you and I forgive myself for having this thought."

I worked on replacing the old thought: I am not enough with a new thought pattern.

New Thought Pattern: I am willing to learn to love myself. I am worthy. I am loveable.

I read and read and read the self help and spiritual section of every library and book shop in town. I also worked with some amazing spiritual practices.

Mirror Work.

One of the most important tools I have learnt over the years is Mirror Work. This was introduced to me by my goddess network. We each supported each other though the 21 day course by Louise Hay and Robert Holden. The very nature of a daily practice had only recently begun in my life and this course really helped me to look at where my beliefs came from, forgive them and then let them go.

Affirmations.

Part of mirror work, and part of any spiritual practice that works with the Law of Attraction, uses positive thought patterns or affirmations to attract what we truly want. This works for healing too. I wrote notes and affirmations and posted them EVERYWHERE! On the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, the front door, in books, as my screen saver. I made sure that wherever I was, if a negative thought cropped up, all I needed to do was look around and there was an affirmation to replace it with. 

Angels.

Talking to the angels, praying to God and the universe to help me. Since I was a child I had repeated during times of need "God make me strong enough to get through this." This had to be added to "I am willing to see this differently. Help me to see this differently." 

Calming the panic attacks

One major component of the collar bone tapping was it started off as a positive coping mechanism for when I had a panic attack. With this strategy now being recognised as a negative, harmful habit, I needed to find another way.

I was given a pendant with a chime inside. Every time I reached for my collar bone I would mindfully take hold of the necklace instead. The chiming calmed me and it redirected the physical muscle memory of tapping. Overtime any necklace or pendant worked in much the same way until I was able to remove the habit altogether. 

When it came to pinching myself, I realised I needed to see my body as a beautiful tool, rather than resenting it as the problem. I started to exercise, dance at first, then yoga, then running. I thanked my body daily, every time I was able to do something that day. I changed my relationship with my body from a resentful on to a grateful one. 

To atone for the pinching, I started to moisturise and nourish the parts of my body I struggled with the most. Lovingly smoothing over lotions, noticing the parts of my I liked and thanking them. "I am grateful for my legs, I am able to run, sit and dance."

I had to really look at my beliefs and see what the root cause was. I am not worthy, I am not enough. Those words sang through my head. Daily I would look in the mirror and do my mirror work and then take to my altar and listen to a guided meditation on love.

Finally, though to be honest, probably most importantly, I had to learn to control my breathing. To inhale and exhale purposefully. Belly rise, belly fall. Mindful breaths following the path of the air through my nose into my lungs, my belly, expanding my diaphragm and then out again. Sometimes I would imagine a golden light in that breath, sending it to the parts of me that hurt, that I didn't like, and blessing it as it healed my body from within.

It took time, a lot of patience and forgiveness to really remove the habit and longer to remove and change the belief. It is something I still work on daily.

To look at a body, imperfect...flawed... and see through to the truth, the golden light within.

To stand strong, bathed in gold, knowing how beautiful I am truly am.

Thank you for allowing me to share my journey. I hope this serves you.

Jen x

Tarnished

The following photographs are taken from a series called 'Tarnished' created for #thephoenixrisingprojectexhibition

This series looks at both the relationship with my body – pinching my fat, tapping my collar bone and the relationship with my demons – the voices in my head as well as the people who tried to silence me. They go from painful to powerful, small to giant, peaceful to screaming.

To me the daemon in my head, the voice screaming I wasn't enough was very real.

And perhaps most terrifyingly, she had my voice.

I would squeeze my fat, pleading with it to go away.

Unable to see the truth. It was my thoughts that created the monster within.

The internal dialogue was toxic and deafening. My voice possessed, my thoughts under siege... and a part of me, the part I was most ashamed of, loved it.

It took me years to love the tarnished parts of me.

To look at a body, imperfect...flawed... and see through to the truth, the golden light within.

To stand strong, bathed in gold, knowing how beautiful I am truly am.

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